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Obelisks

An obelisk is a four-sided pillar that tapers into a pyramid.

Obelisks stood in Heliopolis, Faiyum, and Tanis in the Delta and in the temples at Luxor and Karnak or were left in their original place in the quarries of Aswan. Ancient Egyptians cut huge monoliths, or single great stones, from the granite quarries at Aswan, transported them to where they would be erected, polished and inscribed them, and finally raised them accurately on their pedestals. Considerable skill was involved in all these processes.

The most likely method for erecting an obelisk in its specific place in front of the pylon, or temple gate, would be to start with a high mound of sand and rubble prepared in advance near the place for the obelisk.

The obelisk would then be dragged horizontally onto the mound until it reached its place in front of the temple gate. The base of the obelisk would face its foundation, where a square box-like building would be constructed from strong stone blocks according to the measurements of the obelisk's base. The box-like building was open at the top, but was filled with sand.

When the lower, heavy edge of the dragged obelisk reached the spot for the base, workers would remove the sand from an opening at the bottom edge of the "box." The obelisk would then gradually move downward into the box, starting at the heavy base until it stood upright. The box could then be removed and the final polishing, decorating, and inscribing of the obelisk could begin, using scaffolding that was built around the obelisk.

Finally, the very top, or pyramidion, would be covered with electrum, an alloy of silver and gold, and decorated with scenes of deities and of the pharaoh who had dedicated it.

The obelisks that are now in London, Paris, and New York were raised by more modern mechanical procedures.

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